Kentucky Meets Florida in SECT Quarterfinals
Kentucky begins play in the SEC Tournament on Friday, March 13 against eighth-seeded Florida in the quarterfinals. Tip is set for 1 p.m. ET and the game will be carried by the SEC Network.
|Tourney Central Presented By|
SEC Tournament Central
Kentucky vs. Florida
Friday, March 13 - 1:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | UF
| TV: SEC Network
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via SEC Network+
On a team full of stars, Willie Cauley-Stein has emerged as Kentucky's top candidate for major awards.
He's been named to the shortlists for three major national player of the year awards, but on Tuesday he missed out on Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors.
Arkansas star Bobby Portis took home the big trophy from league coaches.
"Honestly, you can give him Player of the Year," Cauley-Stein said. "I'll take 31-0 any day of the week. You know, he's a good player but that's what it is. I'd rather be undefeated than get Player of the Year."
Not that he needed any consolation, clearly, but Cauley-Stein was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.4 blocks. He also won First-Team All-SEC honors, but assistant coach John Robic knows that won't move Cauley-Stein much either.
"These awards, they're nice and everything, but that's not what these kids are playing for," Robic said. ... Read the full story
This Week's News:
- On Senior Day, Kentucky pulled away from Florida in the second half to win 67-50 and finish the regular season a perfect 31-0.
- With the win, UK became the first program among the power five conferences to finish the regular season undefeated since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers.
- The victory also set a new UK home record at 19 wins.
- Kentucky's 31-0 start to the season is the first in the history of the program, bettering the the 1953-54 group's 25-0 start.
- UK is the only team in SEC history to begin a season 31-0.
- The Wildcats completed the conference season 18-0, the 15th time in program history they've made it through the SEC unscathed.
- Kentucky's 31-game winning streak is the second longest overall in school history.
- The streak is the longest over the course of a single season, besting the 1995-96 Wildcats.
- The 31-0 start is the best of any John Calipari team he has ever coached.
- The 31 straight wins is the longest winning streak of Calipari's career, bettering his 2008-09 Memphis team's 27 consecutive wins.
- UK has won 53 of its last 55 games as the Associated Press top-ranked team.
- Calipari has a 97-9 all-time record when coaching the nation's No. 1 team, including a 56-4 mark at Kentucky.
- Coach Cal honored his three senior walk-ons by rewarding them with their first career starts.
- UK held Florida to just 50 points, the 19th time the Wildcats have held an opponent this season to 55 points or less.
- Kentucky is 57-0 under Coach Calipari when holding the opposition to 55 points or less.
- UK outscored the Florida bench 46-13 and has won the battle of the benches in all 31 games this year.
- Ahead 44-41, UK got a 7-0 run for a 51-41 lead. UF got no closer than eight after that.
- Trey Lyles led the Wildcat with 14 points. He has averaged 11.3 ppg over the last seven games and has grabbed at least four rebounds in each game.
Karl-Anthony Towns had a fine all-around game with 13 points, a game-high nine rebounds, six blocked shots and three assists.
- Towns has averaged 14.2 points over the last five games.
- His six blocked shots was one shy of his career high of seven rejections.
- His three assists were one shy of his career best of four.
- Devin Booker scored six points with a pair of huge 3-pointers. With the game tied at 23, his 3-ball gave the Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish. In the second half, ahead 44-41, his 3-pointer started a 7-0 run which put the Wildcats ahead by 10. The Gators got no closer than eight after that.
- Facing the largest second-half deficit of its so-far perfect season, No. 1 Kentucky clamped down defensively, ripped off a 14-0 run and put away pesky Georgia 72-64 on Tuesday night to remain unbeaten heading into the regular-season finale.
- Kentucky committed no turnovers in the first half and a season low three total for the game, the fewest in the Calipari era.
- Kentucky's three assists in the first half were its fewest in a first half this year.
- Kentucky scored 18 points off turnovers, compared with four from UGA.
- Georgia had 11 turnovers, compared with three by UK - all of which came in the second half.
- Georgia did not have a steal; UK had four.
- UK won the bench points 19-15. UK has won bench points in every game this season.
- Aaron Harrison scored Kentucky's first nine points of the second half, after having played six minutes in the first half due to picking up two fouls.
- After trailing by nine at the 9:12 mark in the second half, Kentucky went 7 of 9 from field-goal range.
- After Georgia took a 62-56 lead with 5:36 left to play, UK closed the game on a 16-2 run.
- The Wildcats took a 65-62 lead at the 2:53 mark in the second half, UK's first lead in 12 minutes. UK never trailed after that.
- Kentucky's largest lead of the game was the final score, with UK ahead by eight.
- Freshman Karl-Anthony Towns led all scorers with a career-high tying 19 points.
- He scored 17 points after halftime.
- Aaron and Andrew Harrison combined for 28 points and were the only other players besides Towns to reach double-figures.
- Kentucky raked in the SEC awards for the 2014-15 season, winning four of the six major awards the league's coaches vote on.
John Calipari was tabbed SEC Coach of the Year, junior forward Willie Cauely-Stein was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, forward Karl-Anthony Towns won SEC Freshman of the Year and freshman guard Devin Booker captured Sixth Man of the Year honors.
- UK has won SEC Freshman of the Year all six seasons of the Calipari era.
- It's the third time in the last four seasons UK has won SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
- Kentucky has captured SEC Sixth Man of the Year three times in the last four years.
- Coach Cal won SEC Coach of the Year for the second time in his six years in the league and was awarded conference coach of the year for the eighth time in his career.
- Cauley-Stein and Towns were tabbed First Team All-SEC while Booker and sophomore guard Aaron Harrison made the All-SEC Second Team.
- All four UK freshmen -- Towns, Booker, Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis -- made the SEC All-Freshman Team.
- Sophomore forward Marcus Lee made the SEC Community Service Team for his contributions off the basketball court.
- Lee was the treasurer of UK's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee NCAA, having coordinated the athletics department's blanket project where Kentucky student-athletes made blankets for UK Children's Hospital patients.
- He has also been actively involved in UK's backpack program with God's Pantry, filling backpacks with food supplies and delivering them to local elementary schools.
UK Dominates USBWA All-District Awards
- The U.S. Basketball Writers Association named Willie Cauley-Stein its District IV Player of the Year and John Caliapri District IV Coach of the Year.
- Four of the 10 players on the All-District IV Team -- Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison -- were from Kentucky.
- District IV consists of players from the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
- Voting is based on its membership of 900-plus.
The Awards Keep Coming
- Kentucky won several of the major awards from various publications this week:
- Sporting News named Willie Cauley-Stein a First Team All-American and Karl-Anthony Towns a Second Team All-American.
- In addition to the All-America teams, Sporting News also named John Calipari its Coach of the Year.
- NBC Sports selected Cauley-Stein as its National Defensive Player of the Year and Calipari its Coach of the Year.
- NBC Sports also tabbed Cauley-Stein to its First Team All-America team.
- Karl-Anthony Towns was named SEC Player of the Week after leading top-ranked Kentucky to two wins, which propelled the Wildcats to completing the regular season 31-0.
- Towns is the first Wildcat to earn SEC Player of the Week this season.
- The freshman forward has earned SEC Freshman of the Week three times this season.
- Kentucky hauled in 11 SEC Freshman of the Week accolades from a possible 17 weeks this season.
- Towns was also named ESPN National Player of the Week for his performances last week.
- For the week, Towns averaged 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 2.0 assists.
- Kentucky standout junior Willie Cauley-Stein is one of 15 finalists on the 2015 John R. Wooden Award.
- Voting will begin on March 16 and end on March 23. Fan voting will be taken into consideration. Fans can vote at woodenawardvote.com.
- The 39th annual Wooden Award ceremony will honor and reveal the Men's and Women's Wooden Award winners. This announcement of the winners will be televised live on ESPN2 from Club Nokia in Los Angeles at 5 p.m. on Friday April 10 as part of the new "College Basketball Awards Show."
- Kentucky junior Willie Cauley-Stein is one of five finalists for the 2015 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award
- Cauley-Stein joins Bobby Portis of Arkansas, Jahlil Okafor from Duke, Rakeem Christmas of Syracuse and Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky in the final five for the award
- The winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award will be determined by a combination of fan votes and input from the Hall of Fame's selection committees. Fans can vote now through March 18 at HoophallAwards.comfor the top position players.
- The winners of the inaugural awards will be awarded April 10 at ESPN's new "College Basketball Awards" from Club Nokia in Los Angeles. The awards show will be televised live on ESPN2 at 8 p.m.
Media Opportunity - March 12, 2015
Head Coach John Calipari
On Florida …
“They’re good. Everybody is excited about playing us. I’d imagine they were because they played us good both games. My team’s – we had a great practice today. I think they’re ready to play basketball, whoever it is. They’re capable of beating us. No question.”
On the dangers of playing a desperate team trying to play their way into the NCAA Tournament …
“I mean, I think every team has a desperation about one thing or another. It will all come down to, okay, how are you playing? Do you have a team that is going to let go of the rope? Ten, 12 minute mark sees the season over and I’m just not fighting anymore. Do you have a team that is really going to fight until the bitter end? You’re seeing a lot of those kinds of games. My concern is my team and no one else. I just want my team to play at their best. If that’s not good enough we’ll go back and get ready for the seeding.”
On the team staying in the moment …
“I told them a long time ago that they’re not going to realize what they just went through until it’s all said and done. We have a sign outside of our media room or our video room where we go in, ‘Where’s the time gone?’ It’s just flown by. Like I said, I have one concern, my team playing well. If that’s not good enough, then you go back and you get ready for the tournament. They were great in practice. They have a great spirit about them. Any team in this tournament is good enough to beat us. The question, ‘Will we play at our best?’ (And if we do) will make it hard for anyone to beat us. But, they still can.”
On preparing for games in a short period of time …
“Oh, it changes. We won’t have a shoot around tomorrow. We will just go right to the gym. If we’re lucky enough to win we won’t have a shoot around on Saturday. If you’re lucky enough to win you won’t have one Sunday. You’ll come back and let the next game finish and do some film and walk through and just play basketball games. You’re not really doing anything. Tonight – today was our last (normal day) we did a 30 minute shoot around at the building. Then we did an hour and five minute practice tonight. So, we’ll have a walk through tonight and we’ll watch some more tape of these guys and see if there’s anything else I need to see.”
On Willie Cauley-Stein not looking right lately and if he looked right Thursday in practice …
“Oh yeah. We feed off him. He’s that one guy that can do stuff a normal player can’t do, and he hasn’t been doing it. He’s been getting scored on, he’s missing a lot of shots just by—they’re physical with him and he’s not balanced coming back. But I think he’ll be fine.”
On how close his players are to being the best individual players they can be …
“We have some guys that are playing better than they’ve ever played in their life, and now the question is as you go into these last few weeks, you talk about how do you add two or three percent to your game? And I’ll give you an example: Trey Lyles’ two or three percent may be flying up and down the court. Just go a little harder and attacking the backboard rebounding just a little bit harder. Aaron (Harrison) may be attacking the basket, not settling. Will you be a defensive playmaker on every possession? Can you notch it up two or three percent? The same with Andrew (Harrison). So each guy has their own little thing that they can do a little bit better at, and that’s what we’re trying to get them to think in terms of. How do you grow a little bit now as we wind this thing down?”
On if he can visualize that his team would like if everybody does that?
“We’ve had some games this year. You know what it looks like.”
On if he’s watched Florida yet …
“I have not yet.”
On Florida looking good …
“I would imagine that. They’re healthy. They’ve got a full complement of guys. They should be confident. They played us twice really good.”
On using this tournament to get other guys going before the real thing similar to Darius Miller in 2012 …
“Yeah, that was—Darius, if you remember, had no points in the first two games and wound down the season and those first two games and was really not playing the way he was capable of playing. And then Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) had him start in his place and took a lot of shots. We were up five with a few minutes to go and lost that game, and then from that point Darius went to that next level, which is why we won the whole thing. But I want everybody to walk in here walking away from this tournament feeling good about who they are, what they can be and what we can be. Like, wow, if we’re all doing our thing we can be pretty good.”
On if he gets a sense from the freshmen about this tournament and what he’s done to prepare them …
“Really, nothing. I just think these guys have a toughness to them, have an edge to them. When you’re that skilled as a player you’re going to be a little more confident. It’s hard to rattle you. When you’re not skilled and you’re just banking on playing hard or doing those kinds of things, that’s when it becomes rough.”
On how he tackles the psychology of going undefeated with his players and if he talks to them about it …
“No. It was really funny, we had Bob Rotella come and do some individuals and meet with our team and I told him that the way I was approaching it was that I just wanted the regular season over. Let’s get on with the real stuff. We had two weeks left. And I told him, ‘If we get dinged, we get dinged. Let’s just get on with this.’ And he said to me, ‘Well, they don’t feel that way.’ So, it’s kind of neat to know that they are not of afraid of what’s going on. We’ve been in positions, even late, where we’ve had to make plays, and they did. So I don’t think they’re afraid of it and I think they have confidence in each other that someone will do something. Like, Willie hasn’t played well in the last two weeks, but it’s OK because someone else has stepped up and done it. Dakari and Marcus Lee, one game, I mean, kept us in a game or we’d be down 10. Our guard play at times, the same. If this guy or that guy doesn’t play well, these two have played well. But we haven’t addressed it.”
On whether this feels like a different part of the season …
“The real part starts when Sunday we hear how tough our bracket’s going to be. That’s when the real stuff starts. This is three days—three games in three days, if you can win. And it will not change our seed. It never has. Whether we’ve won this thing, maybe if we lose it’ll change it. But I don’t know. I don’t believe so. So we’re doing this—I told them, let’s have a ball for the fans, let our fans know that we’re here doing this for you and we’re going to have fun and play as hard as we can. We can’t guarantee you that we’ll win, but we understand that fans can’t get in Rupp Arena come here.”
On whether it’s good to have veterans who understand the importance to fans …
“They’ll see it if they don’t know. When we walk into the game they’ll be like, ‘What in the world is this?’ ”
On UK fans attending games on Wednesday night …
“Well somebody told me sometimes those people didn’t have tickets to any other games so they bought those tickets. (Reporter asks, ‘So what do you think of that?’) I think they’re crazy, but I’ve said it before. They’re nuts. But it makes them what they are and they’re passionate about letting everybody know, ‘I’m a Kentucky fan.’ Now if you want to buy tickets, you better wear orange, maroon, red. You better not be in a blue. Have another jersey on because they’re not selling you the ticket. That’s just how it is.”
On whether fan support can help the team …
“Yeah, I guess. But we’ve been on the road, we’ve been at home, been in neutral sites. I guess it would be better that we had more fans than the other team, but this comes down to us being a good basketball team and playing well. And I keep saying it: I’m concerned about my team. No one else. If someone else is playing out of their minds and we get beat, we get beat. My thing is, how do we continue to grow and be at our best? And if that’s not good enough, it’s not good enough.”
On what he expects UK’s bracket to look like …
“The NCAA bracket? It’ll be hard. It’ll be hard. They called the Lakers and they can’t pull out of the NBA right now so I don’t think they’ll be in there. But it’ll be a hard bracket. There won’t be a you’re the (top) one seed, you should have this kind of road. No. It will not be that. And that’s fine. This team, went through it a year ago. We went through it just about every year so it’s fine.”
On whether there are any teams he doesn’t want in UK’s bracket …
“Yeah, I really—I think if we had to see Oklahoma City or Cleveland, those would be tough. I’m not sure. And they tell me that Portland’s as big as we are. So those would be teams I wouldn’t want to see. I hate to say that because they may try to get those people in there.”
Media Opportunity - March 10, 2015
Assistant Coach John Robic
On UK's individual awards ...
"I think it is great for our team. I'm sure that every player that earns something would want to share it with the guys who are on this team because it's not an individual-type team. All those young men are deserving of it. I'm happy about that."
On Willie Cauley-Stein not being named SEC Player of the Year ...
"It probably came down to those two (Bobby Portis of Arkansas and Cauley-Stein). I don't know how - we're not privy to the ballots. Both had an excellent year. Probably more voters looked at numbers than anything else, but it's kind of natural a little bit. But Willie had an outstanding year. For where he came from the first two years to this year is just terrific to see."
On UK's depth making awards hard to decide ...
"These awards, they're nice and everything, but that's not what these kids are playing for. Some of them mean a lot more than others. That's more of what their opinions are of the players. Honestly when we did our voting it was tough because you can't vote for your own players. It was hard for us as a staff to do that."
On Cauley-Stein saying he values team accomplishments over any individual awards ...
"That's how I answered that earlier question. That's what this team has done. If these players are going to give up minutes and shots and points and rebounds and assists to see their name on a piece of paper All-This or All-That. The goal is much bigger. And they play as a team and all that. And that's just a prime example of why this team has been playing well."
On UK's current strengths and weaknesses as a team ...
"I think we're being more aggressive and more attacking offensively. I think Andrew (Harrison) and Tyler (Ulis) have done a good job of pushing the ball up court and putting pressure on the defense. That just gives us one more look at each possession at the basket. I think our post players are getting better and better. Being more aggressive and scoring around the goal. The one thing we have to sure up a little bit, maybe, is ball-screen defense. That's what teams are trying to do right now. We're still good. Everybody got spoiled with what we did early in the year when you're holding teams to 26, 27, 28 percent at the most. Somebody shooting 42 percent is like the roof fell in. But I would say that."
On if ball-screen defense is a communication issue ...
"Yes. It can be. Part communication, part breaking down, part stop playing. But those are easily fixable."
On Cauley-Stein being a little unhappy with being known as just a defensive player ...
"I don't think that really had a whole lot to do with being player of the year. His offense is still a work in progress. Where he's come - like I mentioned earlier - where he's come from two years ago, it's not nearly what he is right now. Now we want to throw the ball to the post and have him make a play or get fouled because he's shooting free throws so much better this year. I mean, all of our guys. I think we're 70 percent as a team, so it's not like you have to hide anybody. It doesn't have to be situational that way. One thing with Willie that's going to transpire is being a good defensive player is a great thing. I mean, he changes the game in so many facets. I saw all types of conversation about him, and they were all the same: He can guard one through a five. You can't really do that when you're 7-foot-half inch. It's a luxury we have."
On what the difficulties are of facing a team for a third time ...
"I think that's a little bit of, you know, exaggerated a little bit because it's the next game. We're going to play. It's just the way that the brackets came. Actually for us and them, we get to watch two games of us playing against them as opposed to one. Like for instance, if we drew Texas A&M, we played them so long ago that they've played 16 games in between. You don't have enough time to watch 16 games. So for all three schools, I think familiarity will be a big thing, and we'll see how it goes."
On if he shares John Calipari's dislike in conference tournaments ...
"Yeah, it's just tough when you have to play three games in three days and then turn right back around and most likely play on Thursday. That's tough. Now you're talking potentially, what, five games in eight days. That's tough going forward. Somebody has to do it, you know. Now, a bunch of leagues have already finished, but most of the bigger leagues are like that. So that's pretty much the downfall for me is that you jam that much in a short period of time."
On if they lean on their depth a little more this time of the year ...
"Oh, you have to. You have to. I mean, what you're going to see--like right now, you've got some really, really good players that are hurt right now: (Danuel) House at (Texas A&M) (Jordan) Mickey at LSU, (Kenny) Gaines at Georgia. So, hopefully they can come back and play. You're talking about three all-league players. I can't remember if Gaines was or not. But all-league players that, the deeper the team, the fresher you can become and your bounce back is quicker. So hopefully that's the case. Some guys are playing four or five guys over 30 minutes."
On if he can tell a difference with his guys in how fresh they have kept them ...
"Well, I think we've done a good job of that all year long. I think the person that plays the most on our team is about 25 minutes. Does that sound about right? Not only that, but I think what Coach did as far as one off day that's mandated, and then the other being an individual work, lift, film day, you're not pounding them on the court for two hours that day. We've been doing that for probably about six weeks now, so I think that helps as well. This is a nice break for us now. We haven't played since Saturday, and that was four days ago. We're going to watch some film and do workouts this afternoon and then really get back at it. We're going to script some things tonight and then really get back at it tomorrow before we travel."
#1, Devin Booker, Fr., G
On the All-SEC awards ...
"It feels good but we're not really focused on that right now. We're getting ready for the SEC Tournament. As a team, we're all excited for each other, but we're ready for the SEC Tournament."
On if the SEC Tournament trophy means anything to them ...
"It means a little bit to us, but not as much as saying that we're 31-0, because I feel like there are people on our team that didn't get recognized because there are so many of us. Like I said, we're focused on winning right now, and I'll take those wins over the awards any day."
On the feeling of the team right now ...
"We know that it's a new season and we know that everything that we've done so far really doesn't matter anymore. One loss in the NCAA Tournament can send us home. We're just playing every game like we're 0-0 and trying to get a win."
On changes in lineup or playing time in the postseason ...
"Yeah, I don't think there are going to be many changes because what we're doing right now is working. I feel like if it's working, why change it? But I think it depends on situations, what game we're in and I think it all matters about that."
On how he feels physically ...
"Yeah, I've adapted well. I mean, everyone has their little bumps and bruises, but that just comes along with the long season. I can only imagine how it is for another team that has to play so many more minutes than us. But like I said, when we practice, that's probably where we go at each other the hardest. Even though we're not getting the most minutes in the game, we practice just as hard."
On what the veterans have prepared them for in regards to the SEC Tournament ...
"I actually went to the SEC Tournament last year in Atlanta and watched. It's kind of like AAU ball now, that's what they're saying. It's kind of like AAU where you have to play back, to back, to back. It's going to be tough on our bodies, but like I said, we have a pretty deep team so I feel like it'd be an advantage to us."
On if there's any team better equipped for such a format as Kentucky ...
"We have a lot of players. I guess we'll see."
On the challenges of facing a team for a third time ...
"They just make adjustments to everything that we've done. They know everything we do, we know everything they do. Really, it just comes down to just executing and like I said, we just played Florida, and if we're going to play them again I'm sure they still have that loss on their heads so I feel like they're going to come out harder. Same with Alabama, we beat them twice too, so I feel like they'd be the same way."
On watching March Madness at a younger age ...
"It was basically my whole childhood. I just loved watching that time. All the upsets, with the 2-15, 16-1, it was just crazy to watch. Now to know I'm going to be a part of it, it's just a real humbling experience."
#15, Willie Cauley-Stein, Jr., F
On the team picking up several conference awards ...
"It feels pretty good I guess."
On if he ever got caught up in the national player of the year talks ...
"I haven't really heard anything about it. I don't really look for it."
On how important all of that is to him ...
"Now? It's not what's on my mind. I'm just trying to focus on getting better, making sure our team's right for this run."
On Cal getting coach of the year ...
"He should. The amount of guys you have, to get them to play together the way we are, to succeed the way we are, I don't know a better coach that could do it."
On the mindset going into Nashville ...
"Same stuff we've always been doing, now it's do or die, it's win or go home, and just have a lot of fun doing it. This is the funnest time of the year starting Monday. From the first workout, now it's all about business. That's what you play for."
On what makes it so fun ...
" `Cause it is win or go home, so, I mean, you're guaranteed probably, what, two games in the SEC Tournament. (Reporter says it's just one.) OK, so one game. You're guaranteed one game, so it's do or die."
On if Cal downplays the SEC Tournament with the team ...
"Yeah. This tournament, he likes to do it for the fans. If it could be his idea, he'd jump right into the NCAA Tournament. This tournament is for the fans. Our fans (are) gonna come full force and it's like a getaway weekend for them. That's kinda the way we approach it."
On how hard it is to imagine Cal being OK with losing and not wanting to win the SEC Tournament ...
"It depends on how you won or lost. If you lost on a tip-in dunk or a last-second throw from the other side of the court, he's not gonna be too upset about that. But if you got blown out and you're just playing bad--you know his whole thing is, `I don't care if you lose and the other team plays out of their minds and we're still playing solid.' That could happen."
On if the team has it in them to come out and not play ...
"I don't think so, but I don't know. Some night, one night, nobody could be shooting well and that's the night another team can be shooting well. Anything they're throwing up goes in. That's tough to play in."
On how important the SEC Tournament was for them last year to build some momentum before the NCAA Tournament ...
"I think it got us kind of going. After losing to South Carolina our last game, we went to the SEC Tournament with a new mindset, and after we won the first couple of games we were kind of on a roll going into the SEC championship."
On if there's a need for a new mindset going into the SEC Tournament this year ...
"I think that some guys are right mentally and some guys aren't right mentally, and gotta get right the next couple days. And going into the NCAA you gotta have, everybody's gotta be--I don't think everybody's been playing on the same level at once. That's what we gotta get to."
On what it will look like when the whole team is playing at their best ...
"I'm sure y'all could imagine what it looks like. I can't really tell you. It's never happened. Imagine a game where everybody, say, I played good against one team, another person played good against another team, and you just put them together, like, `Wow, if they all played like that at once then it's scary.'"
On whether he is right mentally going into the postseason ...
"I'm not. I think the last five games showed it. I've been playing real tentative, not at the best of my game, but I plan on getting right. These next couple days are vital for me getting right and just to show the world, you know, about all these other awards."
On how he will get himself right ...
"It's mental. Coming on the court with a chip on your shoulder against your own team. Try to the play to the highest level you can all the time."
On what that chip is ...
"Just like people saying I'm a one-sided player. I don't believe that, my team doesn't believe that and that drives me nuts."
On why that bothers him since defense wins championships ...
"It does. It does, but I'm a ballplayer. I'm not just a defensive player. I'm not out there just to play defense and that's what's driving me."
On whether that makes him work harder on his offense ...
On whether defense came more naturally for him ...
"I think defense is all about reaction. It's not a lot like--you don't have to be a genius to play defense. You don't have to be a (inaudible) to play defense. You just gotta react to the other person. It's not hard. And you gotta play games with them. Ultimately, defense, you control it. And as soon as you let an offensive player control it, then it's over. Because now you're reacting to something you don't know. But if you can kind of control what they're doing, then you know what they're going to do."
On whether defense was his strength in high school ...
"High school's a little different. I scored in high school. I had to. Here you don't have to score. And I think that's why I play the way I am, is because we got so many offensive weapons that one game I'm probably going to have to score. Eventually, they're probably going to have to start playing on Karl heavy so I'm going to have to step up and score some baskets. But really, I just gotta play defense and that's the biggest thing about it, is why people think that is because I don't have necessarily have to do it. I don't have to show it. I just have to show it at spurts. That's where people think, `Oh, he's inconsistent.' But numbers don't lie. The numbers on the season don't lie, so I don't feel like I get enough credit on that. But at the end of the day, I don't care. That's what drives me. So I'm going to continue to let it drive me."
On what he tells his younger teammates about tournament play ...
"Stay the course. Don't let it be bigger than what it actually is. You just gotta stay with the team and take literally one day at a time and one game at a time because you can't think the weekend after or the game after because you don't know if you're going to get there. So you really gotta take it like, `This is my opponent now. I don't care about (anything) else. Let's take care of them and then move on."
#2, Aaron Harrison, So., G
On Willie Cauley-Stein earning first team All-America ...
"He deserves it of course. He is probably the best player in the country and he deserves it so I am not surprised."
On this part of the season ...
"This is where it starts to get fun. We become more of a team and closer. All the competition, win or go home is the biggest thing."
On heading into the Sec Tournament....
"Going to Nashville and having major fan support makes it kind of a home game for us, because we will have the most fans there. But were taking it one game at a time and trying to win every game."
On how physically prepared he is for the SEC Tournament ...
"I'm feeling really good actually. It's time to really turn on it. My body is really prepared for this actually. I think we did a lot of good work this season and this offseason, so we're all prepared."
On what the challenge is in playing a team for a third team, either against Alabama or Florida ...
"You can't take it for granted, obviously, and you just know that they have a chip on their shoulder against us, so we have to have the same chip on our shoulders."
On if he's looking to put up the same performance this postseason as last year's ...
"I'm looking to play even better than I did last year in the postseason and just continue to work hard and try to win every game."
On what area he's looking to improve on going into the postseason ...
"Just to continue to be consistent for my team, continue to attack and defend."
On Cal saying how much his game improved when he goes for 2s rather than 3s ...
"It's about playing, just about being all the way focused and being mentally in tune with the game. Coach told me to attack more and that's what I did and other things come along with that."
On communicating more on the court ...
"I'm just doing what I need to do for us to win. I think I need to communicate more so that's what I'm doing."
On what the veterans are telling the freshmen going into the postseason ...
"We just know how important it is and we know how hard you have to play, so we just know that we can't underestimate any team and we have to go out every game and play as hard as we can. Just have to go out there and play hard. Don't stress about it, don't worry about it, just go play ball."
On guys getting so many awards because that's what happens when you go undefeated ...
"That's what happens. We have the best players in the country, the best team in the country."
On if he buys into the idea that Cal doesn't care if they win or lose in the SEC Tournament ...
"We want to win every game, but that's not what our season is about. Like we've been saying all year, our season is about the week after that (the NCAA Tournament). We want to go out and win but it's not the end of the world."
On what it was like to get individual recognition when all year it's been about the team ...
"It really doesn't matter. It's not really a big deal. We know we have the best players in the country, so it's not really a big deal."
On how much last year's SEC Tournament run helped going into the NCAA Tournament ...
"We honestly just had a different style of play where we just started attacking more and everybody ran a lot more and got easy baskets and started having more fun."
On last year's `tweak' and how so many things came together in last year's conference tournament ...
"We did have a small tweak obviously, but I think we just stated to play as a team more. I think that was the only tweak."
On if it's weird for some guys to get recognized with awards when the team has been so balanced all season long ...
"I mean, it's really dumb. I really don't like it `cause I think we have the best players in the country from top to bottom and it's kinda pointless to say, give conference awards and things like that. It's not really important."
On if it bugs him that Andrew didn't get an award ...
"I mean, obviously he deserves it, but it's about who picks it not about who's the best really."
On Andrew using that as motivation in the future ...
"Yeah, he will. It'll be fun to watch."
On if he takes pride in being the leading scorer on this team ...
"Yeah, of course I do. Being a shooting guard, you just have to score the ball."
On what he appreciates about Devin Booker's game ...
"We just have a guy that can score the ball that we need. He's definitely an efficient shooter of course. Obviously he's a good scorer."
On what it would look like with everybody playing at their best ...
"I don't know. I mean, of course everyone's not going to be on their A-game every day. There's people who haven't been at their best some games. I mean it's been me some nights. Whoever's not at their best we just take up for them and help them out."
#12, Karl-Anthony Towns, Fr., F
On college basketball fundamentals ...
"For me it has been a process of getting used to a different level of the game. I'm happy that I have been able to come accustomed to it so far. But fundamentals in high school is very different from fundamentals in college, it is very keen and details matter."
On how they're holding up physically ...
"Practices are hard. In the games we're doing the platoon system and it's been just absolutely wonderful for us. Practices are where we get the motto of, if we can go an hour long straight of scrimmaging, we can do 20 minutes. I think we're doing a great job of - the coaching staff is doing a great job of just keeping ready for every game possible and keeping our skills at a high level."
On what it was like to get individual recognition ...
"It was great. It was a blessing. It just shows that we all have just taken each other under our wing and cared for each other and looked out for each other. These awards are very prestigious, and I'm blessed to have a chance, but I'm more blessed to have brothers like I have right now on this team."
On if he thought they'd have the SEC Player of the Year on their roster ...
"I tell you, we could have anything. This team is so talented and so deep, anything could go."
On Coach Cal being named SEC Coach of the Year ...
"He deserves it. All the tribulations and trials he's been through the last few years, then to have a team like this, and being able to do something I have never heard of with the platoon system in college and make it work and make all the talent on this team work and keep us all together. It takes a special person- and not only a special coach, but a special person - to make that work."
On having Willie Cauley-Stein return as a junior and how that has helped him ...
"It's been a blessing. Not much you can say. You're with the player of the year, the defensive player of the year and one of our best players. He's the cornerstone of this team. He's the leader. This team has been taken to new heights with him here."
On what Cauley-Stein has taught him on the court ...
"Just defensive prowess, how to be a better defender, and how to read defenses better. Also, just learn how to play smarter on the court, and that's one of the biggest things I've been able to take away from him."
On the mindset going into the SEC Tournament ...
"The mindset is we want to win it. Of course we're trying to win every game we're in. We're going out there and we're trying to get prepared for this SEC Tournament. We're trying to make a great run. We're trying to use these games definitely to get better as a team before the NCAA Tournament, but we're also there to win."
On what the team would look like if everybody clicked at the same time ...
"It's scary. It's going to be really scary. I couldn't tell you, but I could tell you one thing, if that was to happen, I feel bad for the other team."
On if it makes a difference to now be playing for something tangible like a tournament trophy ...
"For us it means the world. It's all great that we've won 31 games straight, but it means more if we can cut down nets and that's why I think it's more important to us and we're more happy for it."